DUTCH PROGRESS IN MAZARUNI AND CUYUNI
About 1738, an unusual kind of settlement was established on an island in the Cuyuni by a number of creole slaves who had revolted and sought refuge there. They reached an agreement with the Government (of Essequibo) by which they would continue to live on the island but would perform a regulated amount of labour upon the plantations. This community was frequently referred to in Dutch reports from Essequibo, and the inhabitants were known as the Company's "half-free creoles".
Between the years 1740 and 1744, Directors of the West India Company attempted to establish a mining industry in the colony. A mining engineer, Hildebrandt, was sent from Europe and at the end of 1740 he began geological surveys in the Mazaruni district. He then proceeded to the Cuyuni district where, in 1742, he opened a copper mine about three days' journey up that river from Kykoveral. The experiment, however, had no practical results from a commercial point of view.
In 1743, as stated earlier, the Dutch seat of Government was removed from Kartabo to Flag Island (Fort Island) in the Essequibo River. A new fort and Government buildings were built there and called Zeelandia (not of course to be confused with Nova Zeelandia at Pomeroon from 1657 to 1666).
About this time new plantations were being established along the banks of the lower Essequibo River where the soil was more fertile than further that river as well as the upper areas of the Mazaruni and Cuyuni. The Dutch, however, retained the right to the upper lands by sending old and feeble slaves there. The authorities also made grants of land to planters in the Mazaruni and Cuyuni districts.
Lower down, upon the estuary of the Essequibo, on both the east and west sides, the area of plantation expanded very rapidly. In 1753, the Director-General, Gravesande, reported that he foresaw that in a short time all the land would be granted and that there would be none remaining for new settlement.
In 1746, a Frenchman, Ignatius Courthial, applied to the Court of Policy for permission to cut a road through the forest in Cuyuni. This permission was granted and Courthial reported in 1748 that he had completed the "road" from the Orinoco to the old fort (apparently Kykoveral), and from there to Berbice. In reality, there was a start to this project, but this road was never completed most likely through a shortage of funds or because the Dutch wanted to stop the steady escape of slaves along this route. A draft plan for this road project was presented by Gravesande, on a visit to Holland in 1750, to the Zeeland Chamber.
In 1751, in the course of the controversy between the Zeeland shareholders and the general body of the Dutch West India Company as to the administration of the Essequibo colony, the former clearly announced their intention to remain in possession of Essequibo, with all its subject rivers, from the Berbice River to as far as the Orinoco River.
In the Dutch controlled areas there were peaceful exploration and trade, and development of coffee, cocoa and indigo plantations. By the admission of the Spanish around 1740, the Dutch were established in Guyana and were occupying with their "cities and mills" all the territory from the Orinoco to Surinam. The Spanish also suspected that the Dutch planned to make themselves masters of the mouth of the Orinoco and to establish plantations there.
By 1748, the Spanish were establishing missions on the area east of the Orinoco River. In a map dated 9 August 1748, and signed by Storm Van Gravesande, a Spanish Mission was shown a short distance above the mouth of a creek, a tributary on the left bank of the Cuyuni. The site of an intended Mission at the mouth of the same creek was also indicated. Under the impression the Spanish intended to encroach on Dutch-controlled territory, Gravesande wrote to the Governor of Cumaná that the Dutch would effectively oppose any Spanish mission established in the Cuyuni. The Spanish Governor subsequently replied that he knew nothing of any mission at that location.